It was clearly recorded a while ago, but Crunchyroll has finally released their delightful interview with animator Shingo Yamashita. Yamashita is largely known for his work on the Naruto series, but he’s also done game-changing work on Yozakura Quartet: Hoshi no Umi, Birdy the Mighty: Decode and much more. Many refer to him as a part of the first generation of web animators (those who got their start in the industry thanks to their work online.)
Most recently, Shingo Yamashita was the director for P.A. Works’ League of Legends commercial that we reported on last month.
Shingo Yamashita starts the interview with a beaming smile, describing himself as an “animation director, animator, and composite director”. Yamashita had always enjoyed action scenes in anime, but it was the animation work of Norio Matsumoto on Atsushi Wakabayashi’s Naruto Episode 30 that made him think about becoming an animator himself.
Enjoy a charming interview with Shingo Yamashita, the animator behind the Naruto vs. Pain scene in Shippuden! 🍥 pic.twitter.com/Zw4crrbeNc
— Crunchyroll ✨ (@Crunchyroll) February 25, 2019
Like many of this first generation of web animators, Yamashita was posting his animation gifs online. He created a free website using “Infoseek” and posted his animation work there. This was found by animators Ryo-chimo and Kenichi Kutsuna who had been doing the same thing before they were brought into the industry. Thus, they invited him to come work with them on several of their upcoming projects.
When describing why he wanted to become an animator, Yamashita spoke about action scenes and how many action animators are typecast. He states that whether an animator is creating an action scene or a dramatic scene, both are still about how well an animator can bring emotion into a scene. “So I don’t think there’s a real difference in the nature of the work.”
Yamashita also reflected on his own work as an animator, remarking that he always needs to be aware of the air around the characters he draws and the fact that they’re breathing. Although much of his action isn’t anything a human being could do, he instead takes his inspiration from how objects might move around. One of the most famous examples is when he animated the battle between Pain and Naruto for Naruto Shippuden Episode 167.
When characters are launched by someone else’s attack, he often thinks of the character as a rocket or missile flying through the air. For Naruto Shippuden, he describes one moment in which the character Pain gets punched and his face ripples. He stated that for this motion, he instead thought of Pain’s face like a water balloon being thrown into the ground in slow-motion.
Shingo Yamashita ends the interview with just a single piece of advice for new animators: “If you have the time to spend practicing your drawing, you should spend it studying people. Please don’t forget how important it is to understand people.”